Jan 062014

In Guatemala, just outside Antigua there’s a Macadamia nut farm, owned by a German from California, and named after Viking paradise. It’s called the Valhalla Research Center. I decided this would be an interesting place to visit. When I booked a hike up a volcano, I saw that the tour shop also offered tours to the farm and the surrounding villages. The problem was, the price would vary depending on whether or not the tour was filled up, and two days in advance there was currently nobody booked. After I said I’d have to think about it, the nice lady behind the desk mentioned that her brother was a tuk tuk driver and he could take me on the tour for a very low price. I thought this sounded like a much better solution and quickly booked the tour.

As it turned out, the volcano climb I had booked for the day before the tuk tuk ride was pushed back by a day due to inclement weather. I was in Guatemala at the beginning of the rainy season, and it was coming down harder than any rain I’ve ever seen. As a result, I had an early morning ascent scheduled followed almost immediately by a tuk tuk tour of the surrounding village.

As it turned out, I met another solo traveler from Singapore while climbing Pacaya who was looking for something to do in the afternoon. Once he’d heard my plans, he decided to join me.

The odd thing was, the rain held off all day. It was cloudy and miserable on the ashy slopes, but it wasn’t raining. Five minutes before the tuk tuk was due to pick me up the heavens opened. Luckily, when the three-wheeler arrived, the usually open parts had a nice vision obscuring plastic cover. So, off we went, two guys in a tuk tuk that felt like it was going to get washed backwards down every hill we ascended by the torrent cascading down all around us. There were times when I had to wonder if we were actually floating.

After hopping out in one of the towns and finding a couple of hundred somber looking people standing around, we sidled up to one of the onlookers to ask what was going on. My Spanish isn’t the greatest and all I could pick up was something about a husband and a wife. I interpreted that to mean it was a wedding.

We stood back and watched. Then, two coffins exited the church and were carried up the street followed by a brass band. It turned out my interpretation was incorrect. We decided to make a quick exit, but while on the way back to our trusty stead, I snapped a quick shot of it in front of the silhouetted volcano in the distance. We asked our driver where the cemetery was as the pall bearers were carrying the coffins. He told us it was the cemetery we had passed on the way into the town. It had to be two miles away and uphill, and they were going to carry them all the way there.

tuk tuk and volcano near antigua guatemala

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